ED 468 437
SP 041 071
Railsback, Jennifer; Reed, Bracken; Schmidt, Karen
Working Together for Successful Paraeducator Services: A
Guide for Paraeducators , Teachers, and Principals. By Request
Northwest Regional Educational Lab., Portland, OR.
Comprehensive Center, Region X.
Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED),
Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 101 S.W. Main
Street, Suite 500, Portland, OR 97204. Tel: 503-275-9720; Web
site: http://www.nwrel.org/ request.
Guides - Non-Classroom (055)
EDRS Price MF01/PC03 Plus Postage.
Administrator Role; Collegiality ; Cooperative Planning;
Differentiated Staffs; Educational Policy; Educational
Research; Elementary Secondary Education; *Paraprof essional
School Personnel; Professional Education; Teacher Role;
This booklet provides an overview of the current issues
surrounding paraeducator employment and synthesizes recommendations of
various national, state, and local paraeducator task force groups. Based on
these recommendations, the booklet outlines suggestions for paraeducators,
teachers, and principals to increase paraeducator effectiveness. After an
introduction, the booklet focuses on: "In Context: What are the Current
Issues Involving Paraeducators? 11 (concerns about preparation training, and
roles and about recent legislation); "How are Researchers, Practitioners, and
Policymakers Responding to These Concerns and Policies?"; "What are the
Guidelines for Paraeducator Roles and Responsibilities?" (roles for teachers,
principals, and paraeducators); "Northwest Sampler" (Houghtaling Elementary
School, Ketchikan, Alaska; Oakwood Elementary School, Preston, Idaho; Hardin
Public Schools, Hardin, Montana; and Cherrydale School, Steilacoom,
Washington); and "Conclusion" (paraeducators can offer tremendous benefits
for children, providing instructional reinforcement that enhances every
student's opportunity to learn, meet standards, and achieve academic
success) . An appendix presents existing or proposed state paraeducator
certification policies. Relevant resources are listed. (Contains 28
references . ) (SM)
Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made
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A Guide for Paraeaucators,
Teackers, and Principals
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Titles in the By Request series:
▲ Service Learning in the Northwest Region
a Tutoring: Strategies for Successful Learning
a Scheduling Alternatives: Options for Student Success
a Grade Configuration: Who Goes Where?
a Alternative Schools: Approaches for Students at Risk
a All Students Learning: Making It Happen in Your School
a High-Quality Professional Development: An Essential
Component of Successful Schools
a Student Mentoring
a Peaceful Schools
a After-School Programs: Good for Kids, Good for Communities
a Parent Partners: Using Parents To Enhance Education
a When Students Don’t Succeed: Shedding Light on Grade
a Making Positive Connections With Homeschoolers
a Increasing Student Motivation and Engagement: From Time-on-
Task to Homework
a The Power of Public Relations in Schools
* Supporting Beginning Teachers: How Administrators, Teachers,
and Policymakers Can Help New Teachers Succeed
A Technology in Early Childhood Education: Finding the Balance
a Schoolwide Prevention of Bullying
Planning & Program Development
Comprehensive Center, Region X
Comprehensive Center, Region X
NWREL’s Comprehensive Center Region X
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In Context: What Are the Current Issues Involving
Concerns About Preparation, Training, and Roles 6
Recent Legislation '
How Are Researchers, Practitioners, and Policymakers
Responding to These Concerns and Policies? 10
What Are the Guidelines for Paraeducator Roles and
Responsibilities? * 13
Roles for School Staff 15
What Can Paraeducators Do?....: 15
What Can Teachers Do? 21
What Can Principals Do? 26
Northwest Sampler 33
Houghtaling Elementary School— Ketchikan, Alaska.... 34
Oakwood Elementary School Preston, Idaho 39
Hardin Public Schools-Hardin, Montana 43
Cherrydale Primary School— Steilacoom, Washington.... 48
Appendix: Existing or Proposed State Paraeducator
Certification Policies 53
This booklet is the 19th in a series of “hot topic” reports pro-
duced by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.
These reports briefly address current educational concerns
and issues as indicated by requests for information that come
to the Laboratory from the Northwest region and beyond.
Each booklet in the series contains a discussion of research
and literature pertinent to the issue, a sampling of how
Northwest schools are addressing the issue, suggestions for
adapting these ideas to schools; selected references, and con-
One objective of the series is to foster a sense of community
and connection among educators. Another is to increase
awareness of current education-related themes and con-
cerns. Each booklet will give practitioners a glimpse of how
fellow educators are addressing issues, overcoming obstacles,
and attaining success in certain areas. The series goal is to
give educators current, reliable, and useful information on
topics that are important to them. -
This issue of By Request is a collaborative project between
the Comprehensive Center and the Office of Planning and
In schools across the country, paraeducators have long been
considered valuable members of the instructional team.
Working alongside and under the direction of teachers and
other certified professionals, these staff members assist and sup-
port teachers in many different ways. They provide small group
instruction or tutor individual children under teacher direction.
They organize parent involvement activities and make visits to
students’ homes. Others work in school media centers, work
with special education students, or are translators for Eng is
language learners. Whatever their role, paraeducators are no
longer just making photocopies or designing bulletin boards,
but are contributing meaningfully to learner-centered activities.
As more paraeducators are being hired to provide these essen-
tial services, policymakers are strengthening requirements and
standards for their employment. National, state, and local
paraeducator task forces are developing guidelines to aid dis-
tricts and schools in implementing these requirements. These
groups generally agree on the factors that can increase the over-
all effectiveness of paraeducators (Gerber, Finn, Achilles, &
Boyd-Zaharias, 2001; Pickett, 1999; Shellard, 2002).
The purpose of this booklet is to provide an overview of the
current issues surrounding paraeducator employment and
to synthesize the recommendations of the task force groups.
Based on these recommendations, the booklet outlines sug
gestions for paraeducators, teachers,, and principals to
increase paraeducator effectiveness. The Northwest Sampler
section illustrates how, in different ways, these strategies are
put in place at three schools and one district in the North-
west. A list of resources is provided for further reference.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT
In the last decade, the number of paraeducators has
increased dramatically both in numbers and as a propor-
tion of all instructional staff. In 1990, the total number of
full-time paraeducators in the United States was 395,642.
In 1999, the number rose to 621,385, an increase of 57 per-
cent. In the Northwest states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana,
Oregon, and Washington, this trend has been even more
dramatic— a 67 percent increase in paraeducators, with only
a 15 percent increase in teachers (Ghedam, 2001; Snyder &
Hoffman, 1993, 2001).
Several more statistics point to the increased importance
of paraeducators in the public school system:
♦ Approximately 75 percent of all paraeducators work in
♦ Almost half of this paraprofessional workforce is hired
for special education programs.
♦ An estimated 15 to 18 percent work in bilingual programs.
♦ Paraeducators are employed in Title I programs in more
than 70 percent of elementary schools and nearly 50 per-
cent of middle schools throughout the country (Leighton
et al„ 1997).
Concerns About Preparation, Training,
While the employment of paraeducators in schools has
increased dramatically, clearly defined state and district
policies have lagged behind. Concerns regarding the prepa-
ration, training, and instructional roles of paraeducators
have become more urgent (Ashbaker & Morgan, 2001/2002;
Gerber et al, 2001; Shellard, 2002). While a number of states
and districts throughout the country are currently develop
ing policies (see Appendix for list of state policies), it is still
rare to find well-defined standards for paraeducator roles,
supervision, and preparation (Pickett, 1999). Nor do many
states have guidelines for preparing teachers and other stall
in their role of directing paraeducators.
Some of the primary concerns cited in reports, staff inter-
views, and case studies (Ashbaker & Morgan, 2000/2001;
Gerber et al., 2001; Shellard, 2002) include:
♦ Lack of formal or even informal training for paraeducators
♦ Lack of requirements for employment, training, and supervision
♦ Unclear job responsibilities, which can include par^educa
tors being assigned duties beyond their job description
(and thus not adequately paid)
♦ Lack of recognition within the school system
♦ Lack of respect for paraeducator knowledge and experi
ence, especially if the paraeducator is from the same cul-
tural background or community as the students (Monzo
& Rueda, 2001; Rueda & Monzo, 2000)
♦ Lack of role models for paraeducators to follow and lack
of feedback on their performance
♦ Lack of planning time, interaction, and communication
between teachers and paraeducators
These concerns combined with the increased national focus
on Title 1 and special education programs, have resulted in
recent legislative attempts to establish clear standards and
requirements for paraeducators.
One piece of legislation that affects nearly half of all paraed-
ucators is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA ’97). Final regulations to implement the Act were
released in March 1999. Subpart B Section 300.136 addresses
the use of paraeducators within special education:
“A state may allow paraprofessionals and assistants who
are appropriately trained and supervised, in accordance
with State law, regulations, or written policy, in meeting the
requirements of this part, to be used to assist in the provision
of special education and related services to children with
disabilities under Part B of the Act (IDEA 97).
While this statute insists on appropriate training and super-
vision, it also emphasizes the priority of state law and pol-
icy — giving states the option of determining whether to use
paraeducators and to what extent, and leaving the definition
of “appropriate training and supervision” for each state to
requirements may be adjusted.
The recent No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, reauthorizing
the ESEA (including Title I) for six years, has gone even fur-
ther in addressing the employment of paraeducators. Section
1119 (pp. 128-133) requires that Local Education Agencies
decide (from IDEA 97, Analysis of Comments, Discussions «
Changes from Attachment discussion of Section 300.136(f))
Since IDEA is ud for reauthorization in 2002-2003, these
(LEAs) receiving Title 1 assistance ensure that all paraeduca-
tors hired after the enactment of the act have.
♦ Completed at least two years of study at an institute of
higher education OR
♦ Obtained an associate’s (or higher) degree OR
♦ Met a rigorous standard of quality and can demonstrate
through a formal state or local academic assessment,
knowledge of and the ability to assist in instructing in
reading, writing, and mathematics (or reading, writing,
and mathematics readiness as appropriate)
Paraeducators hired before the date of enactment (January 8,
2002) are expected to satisfy these requirements within four
years. Exceptions are made for paraeducators who are pri
marily acting as translators, or whose duties consist solely
of conducting parent involvement activities. To satisfy these
requirements, the legislation stipulates that funds from Part
B of Title 1 be used for training and professional develop-
In addition to these requirements, LEAs are also being asked
to ensure that paraeducators are not “assigned a duty incon-
sistent” with the following responsibilities:
♦ To provide one-to-one tutoring, if tutoring is scheduled
at a time when the student would not receive instruction
from a teacher
♦ To assist with classroom management such as organizing
♦ To conduct parent involvement activities
♦ To provide assistance in a computer laboratory
♦ To provide support in a library or media center
♦ To act as a translator
♦ To provide instructional services under the direct supervi
sion of a teacher
To encourage compliance, LEAs are expected to require the
principal of each school to annually verify, in writing, that
the school is meeting these requirements.
HOW ARE RESEARCHERS,
POLICYMAKERS RESPONDING TO
THESE CONCERNS AND POLICIES?
As a result of these new policies and concerns regarding
standards for paraeducator employment, professional orga-
nizations, unions, institutes of higher education, and policy-
makers have formed national and regional task forces.
♦ The National Resource Center for Para professionals in
Education and Related Services (NRCP), funded by the
Office of Special Education Programs is developing guide-
lines and standards for paraeducator roles, supervision,
skill and knowledge competencies, and preparation. NRCP
convened a task force that represented state education
agencies, local education agencies, colleges and universities,
parents, paraeducators, professional organizations, and
unions. The task force assisted with the development of
proposed, guidelines for responsibilities and standards for
teachers/providers and paraeducators. To validate these
findings, the task force conducted a nationwide mail survey
sent to a selected sample of 700 individuals with experi-
ence and understanding of paraeducator employment, uti
lization, preparation, and retention. Responses from 400 of
these administrators, faculty members, teachers, and parae-
ducators helped finalize the scope of responsibilities and
three levels of paraeducator positions.
The Center provides technical assistance on policy ques
tions, management practices, regulatory procedures, and
training models that will enable administrators and staff
developers to improve the recruitment, deployment, super-
vision, and career development of paraprofessionals.
♦ In 1999, the Associations of Service Providers
Implementing IDEA Reforms in Education Partnerships
(ASPIIRE) formed a Paraprofessional Workgroup to
address the 1997 IDEA amendments. Key members of this
group included representatives from the American
Physical Therapy Association, American Speech-
Language-Hearing Association, National Resource Center
for Paraprofessionals, American Federation of Teachers,
and the Council for Exceptional Children (to name a few).
The group developed a consensus on the definition and
training of paraprofessionals, identified a need for further
resources, and made initial attempts to address the poli-
cies, standards, and systems that would ensure a skilled
and appropriately supervised workforce (IDEA
♦ The National Center for Research on Diversity, Education,
and Excellence (CREDE) has implemented a project called
the Latino Paraprofessionals as Teachers: Building on the
Funds of Knowledge to Improve Instruction. The project is
investigating the “funds of knowledge” (i.e., knowledge of
the language, social and discourse norms, and other cul-
tural and linguistic resources of students and their com-
munities) of bilingual Latino paraeducators in classroom
settings (CREDE, n.d.). The goal is to determine what
impact these factors have on classroom instruction for low-
income English language learners in reading and language
arts instruction. Publications explaining the results of the
project offer recommendations to policymakers on how to
design effective professional development programs to
make these paraeducators more effective in their role. The
project also suggests ways paraeducators can act as a cul-
tural bridge from school to family because of their lunds
of knowledge (Monzo & Rueda, 2000; Rueda & DeNeve,
These groups-as well as state task forces (such as in
Washington, Montana, and lowa)-are currently working on
providing guidelines to states, districts, and schools to imp e
ment the new Title 1 regulations. They seek to answer many
questions schools and districts have about the requirements,
such as what kinds of assessments should be developed who
will pay for the development, and who will provide funding
for professional development. For more information about
these issues, contact the National Resource Center lor
Paraprofessionals (see the Resources section).
WHAT ARE THE GUIDELINES
FOR PARAEDUCATOR ROLES
Paraeducators can be a viable way to enrich services to stu-
dents if basic guidelines about the utilization of paraeduca-
tors are followed (Pickett, 1999; Project PARA, n.d.):
♦ Paraeducators work under the direction of teachers
(including classroom teachers, specialist teachers, and
♦ Teachers are the managers of instruction and services
♦ Paraeducator effectiveness is maximized by consistent,
quality, competency-based preservice, inservice, and on-
♦ Teacher supervisory effectiveness is maximized by ade-
quate training focusing on decisionmaking, delegating,
planning, and evaluating
♦ Administrators recognize the need for regularly scheduled
time for teachers and paraeducators to plan together
♦ Teachers are involved in developing paraeducator policies,
utilization, selection, training, supervision, and evaluation
♦ Paraeducators are recognized as valued team members and
are integrated effectively into instructional teams
These guidelines, developed by paraeducator task forces, are
designed to ensure that paraeducators are effectively super-
vised, adequately trained, and appropriately integrated into
the planning and implementing teams (Pickett, 1999).
The level and style of supervision will vary depending on
the level of experience and expertise of the paraeducators.
For example, a paraeducator with 15 years experience may
have less direction from a teacher or curriculum director
than would a first-year paraeducator. The NRCP has devel
oped scopes of responsibility and skill standards for paraed-
ucators. They are divided into three levels of positions. For
example, Level 2 paraeducators have more instructional
responsibilities than do Level 1 paraeducators. (See Pickett,
1999, for a more detailed explanation of levels.) Depending
on the role of the paraeducator, a classroom teacher, a spe-
cialist teacher, a curriculum director, or all three could have
supervisory roles, and each can provide a certain amount of
direction (see profile of Cherrydale Elementary in the NW
Sampler section, as an example).
Defining the roles of paraeducators will depend on the
needs of the school, and the hiring guidelines of the state
and/or district. What works in one setting may not work in
another. Just as paraeducator roles and responsibilities will
vary from site to site, so will the strategies to create success.
(See Pickett, 1999, for more information about developing
Roles for School Staff
The following sections suggest ways that paraeducators,
teachers, and principals can put the guidelines for effective
paraeducator employment in place at their schools. Doing
so requires the support of each member of the instructional
team, and a clear understanding of their roles and responsi-
bilities. The following guidelines and suggestions are based
on the work of several professionals in the field of paraedu
cator development . 1 What we list here can get you started.
Please consult the Resources and References sections for
What Can Paraeducators Do?
Paraeducators are a valuable asset for teachers in providing
support and assistance in instruction and other direct ser
vices to students, and in helping to ensure a positive, safe,
and supportive learning community. What can paraeduca-
tors do to be successful in their role? How can they work
most effectively with other instructional team members to
create a positive learning environment for students and a
positive. work environment for themselves and others? Here
are a few guidelines for achieving these goals:
1 We have synthesized information from several sources for the next three sec-
tions. Rather than listing citations in the text for every component, we identify
in this footnote the primary resources, and cite in text when using a direct
quote or pointing to a specific reference. Primary resources are Ashbaker and
Morgan, 1999 and 2000/01; French, 1997; Gerlach, 2001; Heller, 1997; Leighton et
al., 1997; Pickett, 1999; Pickett & Gerlach, 1997; Pickett, Steckelberg & Vasa, 1993;
Shellard, 2002; Vasa & Steckelberg, 1997.
1. Understand your role to assist and support the
teacher in delivering instruction or other services.
Your role will, of course, depend on the job description,
the teacher’s expectations, and your skills and experience.
Roles will be more flexible in some situations than in
others. It helps to clarify your role right away with your
supervising teacher and/or principal. One way to do this
might be to sit down with your supervising teacher and
discuss each activity you might be responsible for and
what level of supervision and guidance you will receive.
Clarify what responsibilities will be shared and what the
teacher is responsible for. Ask questions regarding your
role in various situations. If you are assisting students with
special needs ask questions about your role in attending
Individualized Education Plan meetings, and in imple-
menting Behavioral Intervention Plans. Ask about your
role in curriculum instruction. How much responsibility
will you have to assume for assisting in planning? What
guidance will you receive from the teacher in carrying out
his or her lesson plans and instructions? What role will
you have in assessing student performance? What guide-
lines and training for this will the teacher provide
2 Orient yourself to the school. Ideally, your school/dis-
trict will have a formal orientation to introduce new para-
educators to the staff, review school policies and procedures,
and provide other necessary pieces of information. However,
you can take the initiative and ask questions of your prmci-
pal or supervising teacher to make your first days and
weeks less uncertain. Some questions might include
(adapted from Gerlach, 2001; Montana Center on
Disabilities [MCD], 2001b, p. 17):
♦ Who will be my supervisor(s)? When will we meet?
♦ Is there a weekly schedule and, if so, who gives it to me?
Has planning time with the teacher been set into the
♦ Will there be a formal evaluation of my work? If so, who
will be performing the evaluation?
♦ What are the specific policies on school safety, harassment,
bullying, discipline, etc.? What is expected of me in terms
of enforcing these policies?
♦ Am I invited and expected to attend staff meetings? When
do they occur?
♦ Am I to attend parent conferences?
♦ How will I receive district and school communications?
Has an e-mail account and mail box been set up for me?
♦ With whom am 1 to discuss work-related problems?
♦ What student records are available to me?
♦ What supplies and equipment are available to me and
how do I obtain them?
3. Establish a relationship with the professional staff.
The keys to a successful relationship with teachers and other
staff members are effective communication, trust, respect,
recognition, and collaborative problem solving. This obvi-
ously takes time as you get to know the staff. Here are some
suggestions (adapted from AFT, n.d.):
♦ Create an open relationship with professional staff members.
Set aside some time to get to know each other, and find out
about each other’s interests, professional goals, teaching
styles, supervisory styles, discipline strategies, and class-
room structure and organization methods. Let the teacher
know what strengths and experience you bring to the
♦ Practice active listening. Active listening is a key to true
communication. Elements of active listening include ask
ing encouraging questions; clarifying to obtain clear infor
mation by asking who, what, when, and where questions;
restating the facts to make sure you’ve understood; reflect-
ing on the other person’s feelings; summarizing the issue;
and validating the other person’s “dignity, efforts, and
opinions” (AFT, n.d., p. 4).
♦ Attempt to understand why conflicts occur and work to col-
laborate on conflict resolution strategies.
♦ Provide input on planning. While the teacher is responsible
for planning, the paraeducator should feel comfortable
offering input and suggestions.
♦ Offer feedback to the teacher. Just as the teacher will and
should provide paraeducators with feedback on their job
performance, so should paraeducators provide feedback to
the teacher on how the working relationship is developing.
Discuss these questions periodically: Are we meeting often
enough? Are we sharing information about student per
formance? Do we need to work on redefining roles and set-
ting goals? Are we treating each other with respect and
valuing each other’s roles? Do we feel able to talk freely
with each other about problems and issues (AFT, n.d., p. 11)?.
For more suggestions on how to work effectively with
teachers and create a successful team, see the Creating a
Classroom Team'. How Teachers and Paraeducators Can Make
Working Together Work (AFT, n.d.) and Let’s Team Up: A
Checklist for Paraeducators, Teachers, and Principals
4. Obtain training and professional development.
National and state legislators and educators are working
to respond to the need for paraeducator training, as required
by the new Title I and Special Education legislation. Oppor-
tunities for training and professional development are
becoming more and more available to paraeducators. Para-
educators can find out what their district and schools do
to provide professional development opportunities for them.
In a number of states, state paraeducator associations also
provide training and resources. To list a few:
♦ The Web site wwwparaeducator.com provides an online
training module for training in the 14 Washington State
Core Competencies for Paraeducators, as well as many
other resources. Washington also has an annual paraedu-
cator conference in June.
♦ Bates Technical College in Washington is just one college
offering training for paraeducators. It is a statewide dis-
tance learning training program in the core competencies.
For more information, see the program Web site at
♦ Montana Paraeducator Development Project
(www.msubillings.edu/mtcd/paraed/) provides training
resources to paraeducators in the state. A paraeducator
resource guide available on the Web site provides a wealth
of information on team building, communication strate-
gies, instructional guidelines, and descriptions of roles and
♦ The PAR/A Center at the University of Colorado provides
training resources for paraeducators nationally.
More resources for paraeducator professional development
are listed in the Resources section.
5. Be aware of confidentiality issues (Heller, 1997).
Paraeducators, as members of the instructional team, are
responsible for maintaining a relationship with school staff,
parents, students, and others that is based on an expectation
of trust that each person will perform his/her duties to the
best of his/her ability following professional and ethical
standards” (MCD, 2001b, p. 21). As representatives of the
school, paraeducators maintain professional integrity as they
interact with members of the community, both in and out-
The issue of confidentiality is an important ethical considera-
tion for all staff members. Because paraeducators have daily
contact with students and access to confidential information,
and may often interact with families and community mem
bers, they need to be aware of certain confidentiality ethics.
No staff members, including paraeducators, should informally
discuss school problems between and among staff members,
discuss personalities of staff members outside the school, dis-
cuss administrative and interschool problems in the presence
of students, or discuss student concerns with anyone not
authorized to be a part of those discussions. Unless authorized
to do so by the supervising teacher, paraeducators should not
communicate with parents about a students progress. If a stu
dent or parent brings up a concern, refer them to the supervis-
ing teacher. These considerations may sound like simple
common sense, but it is a good idea to keep them in mind.
6. Conduct self-evaluations of instructional sessions.
Along with any informal and formal evaluations of your
work, it is a good idea to develop a self-evaluation checklist
with your supervising teacher that can help you evaluate an
instructional session. The checklist provides many advan-
tages. It can be a way for paraeducators to establish their own
goals for improvement, a way to help the teacher determine
what is needed for further professional development and sup-
port, and a way for the teacher to determine what he or she
can do to make lessons clearer. Some questions to consider
include (Gerlach, 2001; Pickett, Vasa, & Steckelberg, 1993).
♦ Did 1 review the lesson plan prior to the lesson?
♦ Were the objectives and directions clear?
♦ Did 1 have necessary materials prepared for the lesson?
♦ Did 1 feel adequately prepared for the instruction?
♦ Did 1 use appropriate reinforcement techniques?
♦ Was the teaching area arranged comfortably and appropri-
ately for effective instruction for the students and myself?
♦ Did 1 record behavioral observations about the students?
♦ Did 1 record assessment data or summarize the students’
♦ Were the students engaged and motivated throughout the
♦ Did I discuss the results with my supervising teacher?
What Can Teachers Do?
General education and specialist teachers are responsible for
directing a paraeducator’s work; however, many may not be
well prepared for this role, especially if they are working with
a paraeducator for the first time. “When school professionals
provide good direction, they make the objectives and pur-
poses of the task or lesson clear and they let the paraeducator
know how much authority they have to make decisions asso-
ciated with the task” (French, p. 111). Following are some sug-
gestions for understanding your responsibilities in working
with paraeducators to create an effective instructional team:
1. Direct and supervise paraeducators. Often problems
that come up regarding roles for para-educators and teachers
are based on delegation of duties. Some school staff will del-
egate more authority and autonomy than others. The impor-
tant issue is whether what has been delegated is appropriate
for the teacher to delegate and the paraeducator to accept
As mentioned previously, different situations will have dif-
ferent types of supervisory levels. Teachers also have individ-
ual supervisory styles— some provide more structured
guidelines, others may be less directive. Here are a few
important things for all teachers who are directing the work
of paraprofessionals to think about :
♦ Make sure your expectations and directions are understood
and that paraeducators have the knowledge and skills to
fulfill your expectations. Ask the paraeducator what his or
her expectations are from the teacher.
♦ Keep in mind that appropriate delegation of tasks can
increase your productivity. It can also provide paraeduca-
tors with the opportunity to develop new skills and initia-
tive (French, 1997). “Effective delegation is a process of
steps: analyzing the task, deciding what to delegate, plan- ^
nine, selecting the right person, directing, and monitoring
(French, p. 114).
♦ “Provide clear, daily direction for coordinating plans,
schedules, tasks and feedback” (Gerlach, 2001, p. 33).
♦ Provide clear explanations and guidelines for paraeduca-
tors’ role in instruction (drill-and-practice, assessments,
adapting lesson plans according to teacher directions, and
monitoring student performance).
♦ Make sure paraeducators have the resources available to
be most effective (including training).
For more specific guidelines on supervision see Management
of Paraeducators ( French, 1997).
2. Facilitate a positive working relationship. The best
teacher paraeducator teams are built on trust, recognition,
respect, communication, and collaborative problem solving.
This may not be easy to achieve. Many issues come up that
might make effective teamwork challenging. For example,
if a paraeducator works primarily with students but is not
assigned a direct supervisory teacher, how can a teacher
work with the paraeducator to plan and coordinate ser-
vices? Paraeducators and teachers may also have very dif-
ferent styles relating to students— a paraeducator may
develop a different relationship with students than a
teacher which might blur the lines of authority with them
(Heller, 1997). It is easy to talk about being an effective
team, but how does this look in practice? How can teachers
foster these aspects?
♦ Understand that you and a paraeducator may have differ-
ent working styles, different cultural backgrounds, and
different educational strategies that can affect your work-
ing relationship. Take time to discuss these differences
when you first start working together.
♦ Use the terms “we” and “us” instead of T and “you” to reaf-
firm that you each have a responsibility in the learning
process and are both accountable (Shellard, 2002).
♦ Allow for “individual initiative.” Don’t expect a paraeduca-
tor to have exactly the same approach to a task that you do.
♦ Provide a schedule with a set meeting time at least weekly.
Discuss how you will communicate if you don’t have time
to meet. Discuss this with your principal if there is a prob
lem finding a set time to meet.
♦ Take time to listen to the paraeducator’s concerns and
3. Develop instructional plans for paraeducators. The
teacher is responsible for developing plans for the paraeduca-
tor. It may be a special education teacher, a general education
teacher, the curriculum director, or all three. Certainly there
is room for flexibility, especially if a paraeducator has a high
level of experience and skills. For example, Level 3 paraedu
cators ... have some discretionary authority to modify learn-
ing activities that are developed by teachers/providers
(Pickett, 1999, p. 23). A teacher does not have to be constantly
looking over the shoulder of a paraeducator, but should cer
tainly be directing their work.
While plans do not have to follow a certain format, planning
forms may help to clarify what the teacher expects the
paraeducator to do in an instructional situation (see French,
1997, for examples). A plan generally includes objectives,
activities, and evaluation. As the teacher and paraeducator
become more familiar with expectations, plans can be
adapted and less formalized. A discussion of the teachers’
learning goals and teaching philosophy during the planning
process will help paraeducators understand the basis for
plans and put them into context.
4. Provide feedback and effective evaluation.
Evaluation should be an ongoing, continuous process
designed not only to provide feedback for the paraeduca-
tor, but to evaluate the team relationship. A formal evalua-
tion process should be developed by the school administra-
tor or district with teacher input. Discuss the evaluation
criteria that will be used to assess the paraeducators’ per-
formance. Let them know how often and when they will
be evaluated. Provide an opportunity for paraeducators to
offer feedback on your working relationship. When giving
feedback, start with telling them what they do well, and
then follow with constructive suggestions for improve-
5. Recognize and respect the knowledge and exper-
tise paraeducators bring to their role. Teachers should
determine what unique skills, special interests, and train-
ing paraeducators have that can complement their own.
A paraeducator may be from the same community and/
or cultural background as the students, and thus may have
an understanding of the students’ language and culture.
This knowledge and experience can be greatly beneficial
for developing personal relationships with students and
developing insights into their learning styles, enhancing
instruction and learning goals. Encourage paraeducators
to share this knowledge and understanding with you
(MCD, 2001a). Encourage paraeducators to seek profes-
sional development to further their skills.
6. Discuss with paraeducators their role with students
and families. Paraeducators need to know what their role is
with students. How much authority do they have in correct-
ing student behavior, assisting students with interpersona
issues, or overseeing student activities, for example? Discuss
the importance of confidentiality regarding both students
Some districts hire paraeducators as “family advocates (see
Hardin profile, Northwest Sampler section) to provide out-
reach services to families and to encourage family involve-
ment in their children’s learning. These paraeducators may
also have a unique relationship with the family if they are
from the same community or cultural background. To capi-
talize on this role, here are some suggestions:
♦ Encourage paraeducators to attend parent-teacher confer
ences and meetings. If possible, hold these meetings when
paraeducators can attend them.
♦ Talk with paraeducators about their background in the com-
munity and how their knowledge can be useful in helping
you design instructional services.
♦ Discuss the issues of confidentiality with student and par-
ent information and other school policy issues and how
those would relate to their role with students and families.
What Can Principals Do?
The principal is ultimately responsible for developing policies
and standards for paraeducator employment. Principals are
also responsible for promoting and modeling a professional
climate within which roles and responsibilities are clearly
delineated, understood, and respected. Administrators take
the leadership role in creating a school climate in which
paraeducators have a professional identity and contribute
to activities that help to enhance student achievement”
(Gerlach, 2001, p. 43).
How can principals take the lead in ensuring the success
of teacher/paraeducator teams? How can they ensure that
paraeducators possess the knowledge and skills necessary
to assist teachers with direct services to children? What can
they do to build capacity for leadership in professional staff
members to appropriately direct paraeducator’s work?
Below are listed points for principals to consider:
1. Develop clearly delineated roles for paraeducators
based on school goals and policies. You should be aware of
any federal, district, and state policies and guidelines for hiring
paraeducators. Most important, all staff— administrators, teach-
ers, and paraeducators— need to be aware of the guidelines so
that paraeducators are not assigned to tasks for which they are
unqualified, untrained, or inadequately supervised (Ashbaker
& Morgan, 1999). Clearly differentiating between the role of
teacher and paraeducator is important because they differ sig-
nificantly, even though paraeducators and teachers often work
side-by-side, appearing to perform similar tasks (Pickett, Vasa,
& Steckelberg, 1993). A guiding principle is this: Teachers pro-
vide leadership and clarify roles for paraeducators; paraeduca-
tors assist teachers in meeting their instructional goals. Various
factors may affect the responsibilities assigned to paraeduca-
tors, such as their level of expertise in content areas and
instruction. It is the administrator’s job to clarify these roles.
2. Develop job descriptions that clearly outline needed
qualifications and expected responsibilities. Written
job descriptions “help promote job satisfaction by eliminat
ing apprehensions about what is expected (Pickett, Vasa, &
Steckelberg, 1993). Job descriptions should be specific
enough to provide necessary guidelines for responsibilities
and evaluation of performance, and allow for adjustments
to be made for paraeducators’ varying levels of expertise,
individual working styles, and student needs.
Ask for teacher input in developing the job description.
Invite the potential supervisor to paraeducator interviews.
This will help minimize possible conflicts between the
teacher and paraeducator and will help clarify for both the
paraeducator’s responsibilities (Vasa & Steckelberg, 1997).
3. Provide consistent, competency-based training
opportunities for paraeducators that provide a con-
tinuum of experience.” New Title 1 legislation requires
that paraeducators be well trained and prepared for their
role in assisting with instruction. State legislators are work-
ing on how to help districts meet these competency require-
ments. As this process evolves, one thing is clear— training
and support for paraeducators have traditionally not been
supported, both fundamentally and financially in many
schools and districts. Just as teachers and administrators
need sustained professional development, so do paraeduca-
tors. Professional development and training should be “long-
range, comprehensive and systematic” (Pickett et al., p. 26).
One-shot training sessions are generally less effective than a
continuum of experiences; formal orientation to lay a foun
dation, inservice sessions for enhancing skill development,
on-the-job training, and opportunities for career enhance-
ment such as academic credit or teacher preparation pro-
♦ New paraeducator orientations should not end after a
formal induction. Orient the paraeducator by introducing
him or her to all staff members. Assign mentors to new
paraeducators, such as an experienced paraeducator.
Provide time for paraeducators to become familiar with
their responsibilities by having them observe other para-
educators or teachers.
♦ Make district and other training opportunities available
that match the specific job responsibilities, such as train-
ing in a new reading curriculum. Often, scheduling time
for paraeducators to attend inservice training is difficult;
if at all possible, schedule training so that paraeducators
can attend on paid time. If a district doesn’t offer specific
training sessions, investigate those offered by national
associations at conferences (such as the International
Reading Association), colleges and universities, or techni-
cal assistance centers. Encourage teachers and paraeduca-
tors to attend the same sessions, or at least receive the
same information that will provide better coordination
of curriculum delivery.
4. Provide training for teachers who are directing the
work of paraeducators. Too often teachers are given the
responsibility for directing the work of a paraeducator with-
out any prior training in how to be a supervisor. They need
training in time management, goal setting and feedback tech-
niques, effective communication and collaboration, planning
and delegation, role clarification, professionalism and ethics,
problem solving, and providing feedback and evaluation of
paraeducators. Find out which community colleges and uni-
versities and technical assistance centers might provide this
training. (See Resources section for some of those centers.)
5. Support the teacher-paraeducator team. Probably the
most important thing a principal can do to encourage a suc-
cessful team relationship between teachers and paraeduca-
tors is to build time into the schedule for them to plan,
communicate, discuss student needs and progress, and
receive feedback. It is not reasonable to expect teachers and
paraeducators to meet outside scheduled work hours. While
it may be difficult to schedule time, even scheduling a half
hour on a regular basis will increase the team’s efficiency
and ensure necessary communication. If a teacher is
expected to direct the work of the paraeducator, this time is
essential to ensure coordination of teacher expectations and
Other ways to support the team:
♦ Meet with teachers to make sure they understand their role in
directing paraeducators’ work and ensure that paraeducators
understand who is responsible for supervising their work
♦ Include paraeducators in staff meetings and encourage
their input on school improvement, needs assessment,
and site-based teams
♦ Provide mailboxes and e-mail addresses to paraeducators
so that they have a way to communicate with other staff
♦ Include paraeducators in parent-teacher conferences if
♦ “Emphasize cooperation not competition” (Gerlach, 2001,
♦ Make sure teachers and paraeducators have the necessary
skills for effective teamwork
6. Develop an evaluative process for paraeducators and
supervisors. Evaluating paraeducator performance is the
job of the administrator, especially for more formal evalua-
tions, and also of the immediate supervising teacher or certi-
fied specialist who is responsible for ongoing formal and
informal evaluations. Characteristics of effective evaluations
include frequent performance observations; specific compe-
tencies and performance standards to help paraeducators
work on specific skills; honest, straightforward and tactful
statements; and consistent evaluation standards for all pro-
fessional team members (French, 1997).
As mentioned previously, new Title 1 requirements state that
one option for ensuring paraeducators are qualified, is or
instructional paraeducators to pass a state or local assess-
ment designed to demonstrate knowledge of and the ability
to assist in reading, writing, and math instruction or readi-
ness. Currently, state task forces such as in Washington are
developing standards and policies for choosing and design-
ing appropriate assessments.
The National Center for Paraprofessionals in Education has
developed specific performance indicators of skill mastery
for teachers and paraeducators as well as the different expe-
rience levels of paraeducator positions. These can be used as
guidelines for school districts to develop their own perfor-
mance guidelines after they have developed skill standards
for various positions. For example, a Level 3 paraeducator
whose responsibility is to assist teachers with assessing
learner needs, should demonstrate the ability to use informal
assessment instruments developed by the teachers, adminis
ter standardized tests, and assist teachers in maintaining
The administrator should also evaluate the supervision of
paraeducators. A checklist can be developed listing neces-
sary components that answer four questions:
♦ Are district/school policies in place that provide guide
lines for informal/formal assessment?
♦ Does the supervisor provide necessary support for ade-
quate supervision (e.g., regular observation and feedback,
lesson plans that list expectations)?
♦ Does the supervisor provide appropriate support for the
paraeducator (e.g., clear communication of expectations,
appropriate job coaching, respect)?
♦ Are objectives achieved for student outcomes (Vasa and
Now that we have outlined some ideas for making paraedu-
cators successful members of the instructional team, let’s
look at what three schools and one school district in the
Northwest are doing. Each of these schools employs paraed-
ucators for different purposes. Some have reported success
with increasing student achievement using paraeducators
to tutor children in reading, or have found paraeducators
beneficial in providing a connection for students and fami-
lies to the school. The schools illustrate the common keys to
success discussed in this booklet: administrative support
and leadership; teacher direction of paraeducator work;
respect for the unique role of paraeducators as part of a col-
laborative team, and the importance of paraeducator train-
ing, standards, and professional development. These are just
a few of the many schools in the region and across the
country implementing these keys to success. We provide
contact information so schools can get in touch with each
other to share ideas and learn from each other.
Houghtaling Elementary School
2940 Baranof Road
Ketchikan, AK 99901
Linda Hardin, District Curriculum Director
Paraeducators Provide Group Instruction in
Reading and Writing at Houghtaling
At 9:05 Katy Hook, Title I instructional tutor at Houghtaling
Elementary School, pops into a first-grade classroom and
lets three children know it is time to come with her to her
classroom. Mrs. Hook asks each child, Did you read your
book to someone at home last night? If one child hasn t,
Hook has the child read to her as they walk.
Once inside the classroom, the children take their seats
excitedly at the semicircular table with Mrs. Hook in the
center. She asks the children if they would rather do their ^
writing job” first or phoneme skill cards first. “Writing job,
the children say. Mrs. Hook pulls out each child s writing
folder. She explains to a new child in the group that “when
we want privacy while we write, we prop our folders up so
others can’t see and call it ‘our office’.” Mrs. Hook pulls out a
book, reads the story once, and then instructs them to write
each word as she speaks it. With longer words, she says,
“Write the sounds that you hear”
Following the writing job, Mrs. Hook pulls out phoneme flash
cards and the children quickly sound them out. For the last
few minutes of this 30-minute period, the children select a
book to take home and read aloud to someone at home for the
next day. Mrs. Hook and her students have created a game
board in which students advance a step as they read a book.
Katy Hook has been a paraeducator at Houghtaling, one of
five elementary schools in the Ketchikan Borough School
District, for about 15 years. Of the 419 students, 156 are
Alaska Native, and 133 (or 32 percent) are on the free and
reduced-price lunch program.
At Houghtaling, paraeducators who are hired under Title 1
funds provide group instruction with teacher direction m
reading and writing for students who have scored below the
35th percentile on the Gates standardized test. Current y
there are two Title 1 tutors, one Indian Education tutor, and
one ESL tutor. Paraeducators also work in the school media
center and with special needs students.
Each tutor meets with a group of three to four children by
grade level for 30 minutes a day, four days a week. Tutors also
work with kindergarten students for 30 minutes to an hour
each day. The tutors use Fridays for planning time (this time
is paid), as well as time for working with individual children
and assessing new students.
In the fall, the tutors and teachers meet to discuss the read-
ing scores of students who have not met the required per-
centile. The teacher and tutor work together to coordinate
instructional groups, both times and goals. With the tutors
input, the teacher makes the decision regarding what
instructional methodology, such as guided reading, phone-
mic awareness, or vocabulary, would be best for the group.
All the tutors have been extensively trained in a program
that integrates spelling, writing, and comprehension skills
with the classroom reading curriculum. Each quarter the
tutors use skill tests, which they have been trained to admin
ister, to assess their students’ progress. They then meet with
the teacher to discuss the results.
On the day we visited the school, Hook was performing reading
assessments for each student in her instructional group. During
a typical session, Hook concentrates for the first 10-15 minutes
on phonogram review and dictation (based on a districtwide
reading program), and then moves into a guided reading format
during which she reads a story, and has the children read the
story while she cues for reading strategies. She concludes the
session with children responding to the story in their journals.
All the paraeducators are full-time staff members, paid for
a seven-hour work day (as are the teachers). The paraeduca-
tors and teachers are in the same union, although the para-
educators’ contract is bargained separately from the
teachers’. Paraeducators also bargained to receive the same
health and professional development benefits as teachers.
The principal evaluates the tutors as he does all his staff .
Each year he observes the tutors four different times for 30
minutes each. He also conducts two half-day formal observa
tions per year. Teachers are on the same evaluation schedule.
Structured planning time for teachers and tutors is available
twice a month before the start of classes.When teachers and
tutors aren’t able to meet, they meet at other times whenever
either one sees the need. For example, if the teacher or the
paraeducator has concerns about a students progress, t ey
will meet to discuss strategies. Tutors receive a copy oi the
teacher’s lesson plan for the week and use it to guide their
tutoring sessions. Additionally, tutors have a copy ot the
teacher’s reading instruction manual so they can follow the
same curriculum as the teacher. In this way, the tutoring ses-
sions complement the regular instruction.
First grade teacher Mark O'Brien makes it a point to commu-
nicate frequently with the tutors who work with his stu-
dents. Each week he creates lesson plans for the tutors that
include the vocabulary words and phonograms that he uses
with the students. O’Brien, who has taught at Houghtahng
for nine years, sees the work the tutors do with the students
as an added reinforcement of the skills he teaches in his
class Although he is ultimately responsible for creating the
lessons, he asks the tutors for their input on adjusting lessons
to meet the needs of the individual students.
“I can see the impact [tutors have on the reading skills], com-
ments O’Brien. “Many children of tentimes need the extra
time spent on these skills to reach grade level,” he says. Time
with tutors gives them more of that opportunity in a smai -
group setting and gives them more individualized support.
The tutors are included in staff meetings and offered paid staff
development opportunities for training throughout the year.
This past year, Hook was invited to attend the Internationa
Reading Association with nine other district staff members.
During her 15-year tenure at the school she has been able to
take advantage of district curriculum training sessions to pro-
vide her with more skills in tutoring students. Hooks job has
evolved considerably from when she started. When first hired,
she worked with special needs children in a special education
classroom. At that time, aides, as they were called, were only
employed in special education or as building aides perform-
ing duties such as correcting papers, supervising playground
activity and designing bulletin boards. Says Hook, As
Alaska’s oil money dwindled and schools were forced to cut
corners building aides were cut and certified positions were
replaced with aides.” As accountability for student achieve-
ment has grown, paraeducators have been employed to assist
with student learning goals. For the past 10 years, Hook has
worked as a Title I small-group instructional tutor.
Because of her extensive experience at the school. Hook is
the informal mentor to new tutors. When tutors Paula
Varnell and Debby Hoyt first started, Hook spent at least one
week with each-helping them find resources, introducing
them to the staff, and reviewing curriculum strategies Hook
has an open-door policy for the other tutors and they feel free
to come to her for questions.
Hook is forthright in discussing drawbacks to paraeducator
employment, such as high turnover due mainly to the low
pay scale (which is true in many schools). However, Hook
would not still be assisting in instruction at Houghtaling after
15 years if she didn’t obtain immense satisfaction from her
work. What she sees that really makes a difference is her a 1
itv to provide extra support to those children who are strug-
gling. “What 1 can guarantee is that the personal attention
these children receive is important.” As for her relations ip
with teachers, Hook says she feels teachers and administrators
truly value what she has to offer and view her and the other
tutors as integral members of the instructional team.
Oakwood Elementary School (Grades 3-5)
252 S. 4th E.
Preston, ID 82363
Reid Carlson, Principal
Paraeducators Provide Instructional Services
and Much More at Oakwood
Oakwood Elementary School is located in Preston, Idaho, a
small, rural community near the Utah border. Although it
serves a rural population, Oakwood is the only school in the
Preston School District that serves grades 3-5, resulting in
an enrollment consistently more than 500. The district also
includes one high school, a small alternative high school,
one junior high, and one K-2 school, Pioneer Elementary,
which is located directly next to Oakwood. Because of the
consolidated nature of the district, it makes sense for most
policies and programs to be districtwide, with many shared
characteristics from school to school. Although our focus
here is on Oakwood, we also spoke with paraeducators from
Pioneer Elementary, and with Dr. Jerry Waddoups, the
Curriculum Director for the district. It’s clear that the two
elementary schools, as well as the entire district, share a
common set of goals, a common language, and a unified
approach that mirrors the close-knit quality of their com-
At Oakwood, paraeducators are an essential part of the
instructional team. Every classroom has a paraeducator for
at least part of the day, working primarily one-to-one or in
small groups, with a focus on reading, writing, and basic
m^rVi skills. Paraeducators are also used extensively
cial education, in the library, and to staff the resource room.
They have been invaluable in the implementation of the
school’s multifaceted approach to reading instruction, which
involves guided reading, Reading Renaissance programs
including frequent, individualized STAR Reading assess
ments, as well as SR A /McGraw-Hill programs.
Paraeducators are viewed as an essential part of the schools
professional staff. They are included in many professional
development opportunities, including an annual
Paraeducator Training Conference in Utah, and a recent two-
day training program in a corrective reading program. One
day a month is given to preparation, which often involves
inservice training on issues such as behavioral management,
or specific curriculum programs. Early-out Fridays provide
teachers and paraeducators with ample planning time.
The hiring process at Oakwood reflects their view of paraed
ucators as qualified professionals. Wie use about the same
process to hire paraeducators as we do teachers, says Dr.
Waddoups. “That includes two different interviews, and
involves the principal, the superintendent, and a teacher.
We’re very proud of the quality of our paraeducators.”
While paraeducators have always had an important place
at Oakwood, many of them credit the districts former spe-
cial education director, Dave Forbush, with increasing the
focus on professionalism. “He was our advocate,” says
Sharon Durant, who has been a paraeducator at Oakwood
for 20 years. “He increased our training and professional
development the last couple of years, which really helped.
And he gave us more of a voice within the district. Several
other paraeducators we spoke with also mentioned
Forbush’s tenure at the school as a turning point. Forbush
was able to not only increase professional standards for
paraeducators, but also to increase the district’s attention
to their rights and professional development opportunities.
The awareness of the important role paraeducators play is
now even more firmly entrenched at both the school and
One unique factor at Oakwood is its proximity to Utah State
University, just across the state line in Logan, Utah. “Eighty
percent of our teachers are Utah State graduates,” says prin-
cipal Reid Carlson. “They do an outstanding job training
teachers, especially special education teachers.” The close
ties to Utah State have resulted in several professional devel-
opment opportunities, including a class on improving the
working relationship between teachers and paraeducators.
“That really helped focus our observations on each other,”
says Sherrie Moser, another long-term paraeducator, It
really did help the relationships.”
While Utah State provides the district with many well-
trained beginning teachers, it also results in a slightly
higher turnover rate. “A lot of the people we hire are first-
time teachers, right out of Utah State,” says Waddoups.
“Many of them are starting their professional careers, start-
ing families-there are a lot of factors involved.” The result,
he points out, is that “a lot of our paraeducators outlast our
The eight paraeducators we spoke with ranged in experi-
ence from first-year to more than 20 years, but the majority
had been at the school for more than 10 years. This contrast
between first-time teachers and long-term paraeducators
could be the source for some interesting challenges, but it
has rarely been a problem at Oakwood. “We know our role,”
says paraeducator Valyn Andersen. “You learn not to be
pushy in those first few months,” she adds. “You have to be
very sensitive to individual teaching styles and let them
make their own discoveries. Usually, they 11 start to appreci
ate your experience right away, and draw on it, without feel
ing threatened.” The roles are clear and the focus is on
teamwork, agree the others with whom we spoke. Paraedu-
cators are always working under the direction of certified
teachers, but they are treated as equal members of the
instructional team, with valuable experience and insights
that are fully appreciated.
Another key to their success is peer mentoring. Long-term
paraeducators often serve as mentors to both their fellow
. paraeducators and to inexperienced teachers who seek their
advice. It is a smooth-running system that relies in equal
parts on the wisdom and experience of long-term staff and
on the clear, but flexible, policies developed by the district.
There is an appreciation for the varying levels of paraeduca-
tor experience at Oakwood, which allows for a less rigid,
more fluid delineation of roles not always possible at other
schools. The impression one gets from a visit to Oakwood is
of a highly professional, but family-type atmosphere, where
every staff member is appreciated and all are focused on pro-
viding the best education possible to each student.
Hardin Public Schools (PreK-12)
Route 1 Box 1001
Hardin, MT 59034-9707
Title I Parent Involvement Coordinator
Paraeducators Play Multiple Roles in
Instruction, Family Advocacy, and Indian
Education at Hardin Public Schools
Hardin Public Schools consists of two districts that encom-
pass a very large geographical area in southeastern Montana.
District 1 consists of Hardin High School, and draws stu
dents from throughout the entire area, many of them busing
in from more than an hour away. District 17-H consists of
Hardin’s primary (PreK-2), intermediate (3-5), and middle
schools (6-8), but also includes the Fort Smith School (K-5),
which is more than an hour away from Hardin, and the
Crow Agency School (K-6), which is on the Crow Indian
Reservation. Hardin Itself is a small town just across the
northern border of the reservation. The two districts
together have an average enrollment of 1,700 students,
of which about 56 percent are Native American, predomi-
nantly Crow, but also including some students from the
neighboring Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Many of the
students come from homes where the Crow language is
either predominant or of equal importance to English. Many
also live in extremely rural areas, often without telephones.
The challenges that face the districts can seem as immense
as the beautiful, windswept prairie that surrounds it, but
their successes mirror the strength and soul of the people.
One important factor in Hardin Public Schools’ many suc-
cesses is the role that paraeducators play, both in the classroom
and in bridging the gap between the schools and the families
they serve. The Parent Center for Hardin Public Schools con
sists of Parent Involvement Coordinator Janice Eckman, and
two Family Advocates, Davene Big Lake and Ruth Harris
Federal Programs Director Beth Howe Hugs is in charge of
all supervision, evaluations, and hiring for the center.
The approach that Hardin Public Schools takes to the use of
paraeducators exhibits the key ingredients we have seen in
all effective programs. As Beth Hugs says, “You won t see our
paraeducators standing around the copier machine. They’re
in the classroom and out in the community Besides the
Parent Center, there are paraeducators in every classroom, in
special education, in the library, in the high school’s learning
lab, and in the computer labs that are in every school. There
are paraeducators staffing the after-school tutoring pro-
grams, and there are four paraeducators at the Crow Agency
School who received full training from MSU-Billings in the
teaching of Native American children and teaching to indi
vidual learning styles.
In addition, almost all paraeducators are full-time staff dur-
ing the nine-month school year, and after two years are
offered health care benefits, sick leave, paid holidays, and
retirement plans. The districts will even go to great lengths
'% ■ '
to offer summer employment to those paraeducators who
request it, whether on the grounds crew or building mainte-
nance or doing office work. Paraeducators are also included
in many professional development opportunities, such as
Montana Education Association training sessions and family
literacy conferences. The districts are involved in a teacher
training program with Little Bighorn College and MSU
Billings, which pays tuition, materials, and a small monthly
stipend to Native Americans who wish to become certified
teachers. Paraeducators are given first priority in the pro-
gram. Graduates of the program are strongly encouraged,
though not required, to seek employment with schools serv-
ing reservations. Hugs estimates that more than 100 Native
American students in the program will be certified within
the next five years.
The hiring of paraeducators is done building by building
and often includes a current paraeducator in addition to a
certified teacher and school administrator. At least one
member of all screening and interview committees in the
two districts must be of Native American heritage— one
example of a cultural awareness that might seem obvious,
but is by no means a given in similar schools around the
country. Throughout the districts there is an intense focus
on offering a culturally appropriate education, which
includes the teaching of the Crow language at the middle
and high schools. Tutors who speak Crow are also available
at all grade levels, and the student advocates in each build-
ing are well versed in the culture.
All paraeducators work under the direct supervision of a
certified teacher or an administrator. As Hugs says, “In the
past, Title I used to be a dumping ground for burned-out
teachers, but that has changed. We have made every effort to.
provide the best teachers for those students with the greatest
needs” All the teachers treat their paraeducators as co-teach-
ers, she notes, but the roles are clearly delineated. Its team
teaching in the best sense. Students often don t know the
difference between a teacher and a paraeducator in the class
room, but the roles are clear.” This teamwork is based on sig-
nificant planning time between teachers and paraeducators,
including grade-level meetings every Friday afternoon.
“There are detailed job descriptions for paraeducators, says
Hugs, “as well as policies and grievance procedures specifi-
cally for them.”
In the Parent Center, all these policies and procedures are
seen to great effect. The roles of each member are clearly
defined and the teamwork is seamless. Every summer,
Davene Big Lake (a Crow tribal member who speaks the lan-
guage fluently) and Ruth Harris attempt to make home vis
its to every family with a child entering kindergarten. With
an average of 130 kindergarten students each year, spread
over three different schools, and with families many miles
apart, it is a daunting goal, but one that the two family advo-
cates take very seriously. “We want parents to feel welcome
right from the beginning,” says Big Lake. “It’s really impor-
tant to make that initial contact.” These visits are also
informative, giving parents an idea of the many resources
available to them, including free books, materials dealing
with phonemic awareness, and information from the Indian
Health Center regarding dental care, nutrition, immuniza-
tion, and parenting skills.
These home visits are only the beginning. Throughout the
school year the parent involvement program offers a variety
of events and resources. There are Family Fun Nights once
a month, as well as Family Game Nights, Bingo for Books, a
Christmas crafts program, Cooking with Kids, and many
other activities. “It’s been a great way to educate the commu-
nity,” says Eckman. “We’ve had some trial and error, like the
time we had to make 350 ice cream sundaes, but these pro
grams have been a great success.
The Parent Center itself offers a wide variety of resources.
There are books and videos available for checkout, board
games, computers with Internet access, and information on
ADD/ ADHD, parenting skills,, approaches to discipline, deal-
ing with homework, and reading with children, among other
things. But the most important and effective resource is the
staff. “We all feel so strongly that what we’re doing is impor-
tant,” says Eckman. “Everything we do is focused on the goal
of bridging the gap between the schools and the parents.
In the Hardin Public Schools, paraeducators play many dif-
ferent roles, but whether they are in the classroom or out in
the community, they have the same professionalism and pas-
sion for their work as the best teachers. “I think in many
ways we are less intimidating to parents than certified
teachers or administrators,” says Harris. “We’re their advo-
cates and we can give the school a human face.
“At the same time, we’re advocates for our teachers,” adds
Eckman. “Every time we make contact with parents it’s an
opportunity to bridge that gap.”
Cherrydale Primary School (K-2)
1201 Galloway Street
Steilacoom, WA 98388
Penny Jackson, Director of Pupil Services
Paraeducators Provide Group Reading
Instruction at Cherrydale Primary
Stopping in the small town of Steilacoom, just south of
Tacoma, is a refreshing break from the traffic-snarled free-
way that joins Seattle to Portland. No fast food restaurants,
gas stations, or Starbucks are present here, but 35 struc-
tures— including the state’s first library and courthouse-
are more than a- century old in the state’s first incorporated
Cherrydale Primary School, located up the hill from the
National Historic District, has been newly renovated to pro-
vide a child-welcoming environment for the 350 K-2 stu-
dents. Reading instruction has also been recently
reengineered so that students who need additional intensive
instruction to meet standards receive it.
The “reading continuum” that provides these children group
tutoring in addition to their regular classroom reading
instruction has influenced the way paraeducators are
employed at Cherrydale. Prior to fall 2000, paraeducators
were employed primarily as teacher assistants, with each
one assigned to a teacher. Depending on the teacher, each
assistant would have different responsibilities. They were not
necessarily trained in the curriculum, and their work was
not coordinated by anyone except the individual teacher.
During the one and one-half -hour reading block, paraeduca-
tors provide small-group instruction to Title I students in
the class for 25 minutes. Five Title 1 and special education
paraeducators work under the direction and supervision of
the Title I specialist, Shawn Munsey, and the special educa-
tion specialist, Danita Ross. Munsey and Ross direct the work
of their respective paraeducators and meet together weekly
to coordinate lesson plans.
The reading curriculum that paraeducators use emphasizes
phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.
Students who need extra assistance also receive an addi-
tional 25 minutes of small-group instruction during their
regular class time, for a total of two hours of block reading
Director of Pupil Services Penny Jackson, Munsey, and Ross
all consider the paraeducators highly valuable members of
the instructional team, now that the paraeducators are work-
ing with students toward specific educational goals. The
keys to their effectiveness have been:
♦ Specific qualifications , criteria, and trainingfor
Cherry dale’s paraeducators. They are required to meet
Washington state’s 14 Core Competencies for Paraedu-
cators. The competencies describe the awareness, knowl-
edge, understanding, and abilities that paraeducators
must demonstrate in order to work with students with
disabilities. (See www.paraeducator.com/html/ compe-
tencies.htm for a full list). They include ability to commu-
nicate with colleagues, follow instructions, and use
problem-solving skills to work as an effective team mem-
ber. Paraeducators can receive training that is scheduled
during inservice days through Puget Sound ESD and the
district. Upon successful completion of the training pro-
gram, participants receive a certificate of completion.
Paraeducators have also been extensively trained in the
school’s reading curriculum, including at least two full
days of initial training plus ongoing training.
♦ Excellent communication between teachers and paraeduca-
tors. Every Friday the paraeducators meet with the Title I
and special education teachers to plan. All paraeducators
have a folder for each child with whom they work that
includes a lesson plan for the week and assessments. The
teachers and paraeducators go over the students’ progress
during their meetings, discussing what is and what isn t
working. Although there is no formal time allotted for the
classroom teachers and paraeducators to meet, they get
together informally when necessary. The classroom teach-
ers also have access to the paraeducators’ folders for each
child. Says Munsey, Title 1 specialist, “Teachers talk with
paraeducators constantly about their students.”
♦ Administration, board member, and school staff support.
Munsey states that she values the paraeducators as fellow
educators. She notes that initially the change from class- „
room assistants to instructional aides was “disconcerting”
for some teachers. However, as the teachers began to see
dramatic improvement in their students who are tutored,
they became supportive of the paraeducators role. The
paraeducators also see how their contributions contribute
to measurable improvement in their students’ reading abil-
ity. “It is a more rewarding role for them,” says Munsey.
“The district has more paraeducators than most other dis-
tricts in Washington because administrators here see the
benefits that these well-trained staff members bring to the
reading instruction,” say both Munsey and Ross.
♦ Specific guidelines for the roles of paraeducators. Cherry-
dale’s paraeducators provide. intensive reinforcement of
reading skills under the direction and supervision of the
Title 1 teachers. Classroom teachers also direct the work of
the paraeducators. In one classroom, three groups are bro-
ken out into separate tables, a teacher working with a gen-
eral education group, and two Title I paraeducators each
working with a group. Other teachers prefer to have the
paraeducators working in the hall outside the classroom
for the 25 allotted minutes.
Jackson and the specialist teachers all see the great progress
children are making with the benefit of well-trained paraedu
cators, directed by the teacher specialists. In Title I, the first-
grade students advanced from the 28th percentile in fall 2000
to the 67th percentile in spring 2001. Second-grade students
iflcrgased a.s well. One student moved from the 4th percentile
to the 67th percentile in one year! Says Munsey, “I see these
kids reading with greater fluency than before they started
working with the paraeducators.” As a matter of fact, both
first and second grade doubled their fluency rates in one year.
As we can see from the Northwest Sampler profiles, paraed
ucators can offer tremendous benefits for children. They pro-
vide instructional reinforcement that enhances every
student’s opportunity to learn, meet standards, and achieve
academic success. They are a vital link between the school
and the community. It is well worth the effort to provide
them with the best training and support possible. As Pickett
and Gerlach emphasize:
“It is important that the contributions paraeducators ... make
to improving the quality and productivity of education and
related services not be overlooked; and that standards for
their employment, roles, supervision, and preparation be
established and opportunities for staff development and
professional growth be institutionalized (1997, p. 266).
We hope that this booklet provides some suggestions for
making paraeducators productive and beneficial members
of the instructional team. We urge you to consult the
Resources and References sections for additional informa
EXISTING OR PROPOSED
S TAT E PARAEDUCATOR
Alabama. Letter of approval
required. Thirty hours of for-
mal training; permanent.
Delaware. Permit with
requirements not specified;
must have evaluated experi-
ence and training and skills
relevant to the position; per-
Florida. Legislation outlin-
ing career ladder with LEA
option (not mandatory)
passed in 1998. Current reg-
ulations specify standards
and procedures that apply
to teacher aides, including
health, age, knowledge of
policies, and instructional
Georgia. State license
requires two years of college
or 50 hours; renewable every
three years, requiring addi-
tional 50 hours instruction
Idaho. Special education -
state standards for knowl-
edge and performance.
Recommendations for orien-
tation and training in first
year of employment.
Illinois. State certificate
requires completion of a
teacher aide training pro-
gram approved by the
superintendent or 30 semes-
ter hours; permanent. Legis-
lation pending for revision
and creation of task force to
Indiana. Special educa-
tion— appropriately trained
paraprofessionals may work
under the direction of a
teacher or related services
personnel. Public agencies
must provide preservice and
Iowa. New hires must com-
plete inservice in first year
of employment. LEAs must
have staff development plan
that includes paraeducators.
Special education— preser-
vice and inservice require-
ments. Certificate granted to
those who complete a recog-
nized paraeducator prepara-
tion program with 90 clock
hours of training.
Kansas. The state requires a
permit for special education
only. Effective May 2000,
state regulations are no
longer in effect, but districts
must follow these standards
in order to receive state
reimbursement of approxi-
mately$8,000 per special
Level 1— Twenty hours,
renewable every year. Level
2— Thirty semester hours
plus 450 hours inservice
plus two years’ experience at
Level 1; renew every three
years. Level 3— Sixty semes-
ter hours or AA degree plus
900 hours inservice plus
three years at Level 2; renew
every three years.
Maine. Education techni-
cian/Level I— high school
diploma, orientation, ongo-
ing inservice. Education
technician/Level II— Two
years college plus inservice.
III— three years college plus
inservice. All are renewed
Maryland. State task force
report recommending licen-
sure standards presented to
state legislature in 1998; no
LEA mandate. 2001-Devel-
opment of state regulations
Omnibus Education Bill of
1998 requires school boards
in districts where parapro-
fessionals are employed in
programs for students with
disabilities to ensure that:
Paraprofessionals have suffi-
cient knowledge and skills in
various areas, annual train-
ing opportunities to further
develop knowledge and
skills, and ongoing direction
of their work by a licensed
teacher, and where appropri-
ate and possible, the supervi-
sion of a school nurse.
teacher; complete the read-
ing, language arts, and math
portions of a current nation-
ally normed eighth grade
test (exempt if holding a
teaching certificate). HS
diploma or GED; participate
in annual training provided
by the district.
Missouri. State require-
ment for instructional aides
only of 60 hours college;
New Hampshire. State
Certificate. HS diploma, one
year experience; complete a
two-week orientation ses-
sion on special education.
must complete 50 hours in
areas determined by the
master plan for their district.
are approved by the county
superintendent of schools
who must develop job
descriptions and standards
New Mexico. State require-
ment that paraprofessional
must complete a training
program designed by local
school district. Training
varies according to district
and how they use parapro-
New York. State certified.
Teacher aide: must fulfill civil
service requirements; respon-
sibilities are non-teaching.
Teaching assistant— tempo-
rary license: HS diploma;
responsibilities are instruc-
tional in nature. Teaching
assistant— continuing certifi-
cate: six hours of collegiate
study; one year of experience;
responsibilities are instruc-
tional in nature. Teaching
assistant— Level I: HS
diploma; satisfactory level of
performance on the New
York State Teacher Certifi-
cation Examination Test.
Teaching assistant— Level II:
all requirements of Level I
plus six hours of collegiate
study. Teaching assistant-
Level III: all requirements of
Level II plus 18 hours of colle-
giate study. Teaching
certificate: all requirements
of Level III plus must be
matriculated in a program
registered as leading to
Ohio. State permit.
Education aide needs skills
sufficient to do the job, one-
year permit. Education
Assistant— high school
diploma and participation in
unspecified inservice train-
ing under a one-year permit;
renewed every four years.
passed 1999; in process
at state department of
Oregon. Under discussion
at state department of edu-
Pennsylvania. State certi-
fied (private schools only).
Rhode Island. State
requirement. High school
diploma; training at discre-
tion of district (Rhode
Island Federation of
Teachers is working to
South Carolina. HS
diploma; participation in
preservice and inservice
training programs for aides.
Texas. State certified.
Education Aide— high
school diploma and experi-
ence working with children;
Education Aide II— Fifteen
hours college or demon-
strated proficiency; Educa-
tion Aide Ill-Thirty hours
college and three years as
Aide I or II. Legislation
introduced for revision,
Utah. Standards for special
were developed and
approved by state board in
May 1995. Collaboration
with the state office of edu-
cation, school districts, and
two- and four-year institutes
created two-year associate
degree programs for paraed-
ucator development that is
articulated to four-year spe-
cial education and elemen-
tary education teacher
Vermont. Level I— Six hours
college, renewed yearly. .
Level II— Thirty hours col-
lege plus one year experi-
ence, renewed every two
years. Level III— Sixty hours
college plus two years’ expe-
rience, renewed every three
years. Level IV-Ninety
hours college, renew every
four years. Personnel stan-
dards for paraprofessionals
will be included in special
education rules in 2002.
system defined but not
Wisconsin. Special educa-
tion only. Three years col-
lege or three years
supervising youth activities
or some combination that
can include two years at
voc-tech school specializing
in childcare, renewed every
Source: Adapted from a
table on the American
Federation of Teachers Web
retrieved 1/10/ 02 with addi
tional updates provided by
NWREL staff members will gladly answer requests for basic
information, provide references, and suggest referra s to
available resources. Please call Karen Schmidt or Carlos
Sundermann at 1-800-547-6339
American Federation of Teachers Paraprofessional and
School-Related Personnel Web site www.aft.org/psrp/
Minnesota Paraprofessional Consortium
University of Minnesota
111 Pattee Hall; 150 Pillsbury Drive SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
612-624-9893 , , ,
Web site: http://ici 2 .coled.umn.edu/para/delault.ntmi
Montana Paraeducator Development Project
Montana State University at Billings
Web site: www.msubillings.edu/mtcd/paraed/
National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals in
Education and Related Services
Utah State University
Logan, UT 84322-6526
Web site: www.nrcpara.org
Contact: Marilyn Likins, Co-Director or Teri Wallace, Co-Director
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The PAR 2 A Center
University of Colorado at Denver
Contact: Dr. Nancy French, Director
Web site: http://paracenter.cudenver.edu/
The Center provides the Paraeducator Supervision Academy,
comprehensive curriculum packages for paraeducators serving
English Language Learners, students with low-incidence disabil-
ities, and many more professional development opportunities.
Washington Education Association
Paraeducator Issues Web Site
A resource for paraeducators in Washington state. Includes
training modules in the core competencies for paraeduca-
tors, online discussion groups, and fact sheets concerning
new Title 1 requirements.
French, N. (in press). Administrator’s desk reference on para
educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Giangreco, M.F., Edelman, S.W., & Broer, S.M. (2001). A guide
to schoolwide planningfor paraeducator supports. Burlington,
VT: University of Vermont. Retrieved April 22, 2002, from
www.uvm.edu/ cdci/parasupport/ guide.html
North Dakota Department of Public Instruction Paraeducator
Task Force. (2000). Resource manual: The implementation oj
effective paraeducator practices in educational settings. Bis-
marck ND: North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.
Retrieved February 5, 2002 from wwwdpUtateJidus/speced/resource/
Schmidt, K., & Greenough, R. ( 2002). Designing state and
local policies for the professional development of instructional
paraeducators. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional
Educational Laboratory. Retrieved April 22, 2002, from:
American Federation of Teachers, (n.d.). Credting d cldssroom
team: How tedchers dnd pdrdeducdtors can mdke working
together work. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved
February 5, 2002, from www.aft.org/newmembers/
Ashbaker, B.Y., & Morgan, J. (1999, March). The ‘ S’ in ASCD:
Tedchers supervising pdrdeducdtors for professiondl devel
opment. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Develop
ment, San Francisco, CA. (ERIC Document Reproduction
Service No. ED432561)
Ashbaker, B.Y., & Morgan/J. (2000-2001). Paraeducators: A
powerful human resource. Stredmlined Semindr, 19(1),
1-3. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.
Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence
(CREDE). (n.d.). Robert Ruedd biogrdphy. Santa Cruz, CA:
Author. Retrieved April 23, 2002, from
French, N.K. (1997). Management of paraeducators. In A.L.
Pickett & K. Gerlach (Eds.), Supervising pdrdeducdtors in
school settings: A team dpprodch (pp. 91-169). Austin, TX:
Gerber, S.B., Finn, J.D, Achilles, CM, & Boyd-Zaharias,J. (2001).
Teacher aides and students’ academic achievement.
Educdtiondl Evdludtion and Policy Andlysis, 23(2), 123-143.
Gerlach, K. (2001). Let’s team up: A checklist for paraeduca-
tors, teachers, and principals. Annapolis Junction, MD:
National Education Association Professional Library.
Ghedam, B. (2001). Public school student, staff and graduate
counts by state, school year 1999-2000 [Statistics in brief].
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education,
National Center for Education Statistics.
Heller, W. (1997). Professional and ethical responsibilities of
team members. In A.L. Pickett & K. Gerlach (Eds.),
Supervising paraeducators in school settings: A team
approach (pp. 207-234). Austin, TX: ProEd.
IDEA Partnerships. (2001). IDEA Partnerships Paraprofes-
sional Initiative: Report to the U.S. Department of
Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of
1997, PL. 105-17, 105th Cong. (1997). Retrieved April 17,
2002, from www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/Policy/
Iowa Department of Education. (1998). Guide for effective
par aeducator practices in Iowa. Des Moines, IA. Author.
Leighton, M.S., O’Brien, E., Walking Eagle, K, Weiner, L,
Wimberly, G., & Youngs, P. (1997). Roles for education
paraprofessionals in effective schools: An idea book.
Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service No. ED413317)
Montana Center on Disabilities [MCD]. (2001a).
Paraeducators as links to the community [MS PowerPoint
presentation materials]. Billings, MT: Montana State
University, College of Education and Human Services.
Retrieved April 17, 2002, from www.msubillings.edu/
Montana Center on Disabilities [MCD], (2001b). Montana's
paraeducator resource guide. Billings, MT: Montana State
University, College of Education and Human Services.
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Monzo, L.D., & Rueda, R.S. (2001). Socioculturalfactors in
social relationships: Examining Latino teachers and
paraeducators ’ interactions with Latino students.
(Research Report No. 9). Santa Cruz, CA: Center for
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(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED451724)
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tings: A team approach (pp. 235-262). Austin, TX: ProEd.
Dr. Nancy French, Director, PAR 2 A Center, University of Colorado at Denver
Dr. Kent Gerlach, Professor of Special Education, Pacific Lutheran University
Dr. Marilyn Likins, Co-Director, National Resource Center for
Paraprofessionals in Education and Related Services
Dr. Paul Palm, Director, Comprehensive Center
Richard Greenough, Associate, Planning and Program Development
Barbara Hansen, Associate, Comprehensive Center
Lesley Harrison, Associate, Assessment Program
Dr. Rebecca Novick, Unit Manager, Child and Family Program
Kathy Fuller, Program Officer, U.S. Department of Education, Office of
Educational Research and Improvement
Eugenia Cooper Potter
Eugenia Cooper Potter
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